Even the safest amusement parks carry inherent risks. Whether guests are splashing down a waterslide, firing a paintball gun, or flipping upside down on a ride, they should understand the potential risks for physical injury and property loss. That’s why operators warn people to keep their hands inside the rides and secure any loose objects. It’s also why wise operators use liability waivers to protect their business from lawsuits that may arise when accidents happen.
But do liability waivers work universally to shield amusement park operators from any legal action in every situation? The short answer is: not necessarily. We’ll explain in detail below.
What is a liability waiver?
A liability waiver is a legal document that businesses may ask customers to sign, acknowledging the risks involved when participating in certain activities. By signing this form, customers agree to give up some rights to make legal claims against the company for injuries that may result from these activities.
Amusement parks often present liability waivers in two main ways:
- Providing a formal written contract that guests must sign to express consent explicitly.
- Printing waiver terms on the back of admission tickets, reinforced by notices posted throughout the park.
While formal liability waivers are useful for specific activities like ziplining or paintballing, large amusement parks often use “ticket case” liability waivers to cast a wider safety net over various rides with different risks. In any case, these terms must clearly communicate what rights you’re asking guests to waive when they participate in your attraction.
However, just because a customer signs a waiver or implies consent by buying a ticket, it doesn’t necessarily mean that an operator can’t be held responsible for an injury. As with most legal documents, the specific details of each incident could nullify the agreement.
Do liability waivers work in every situation?
Although liability waivers do work to provide some protection against being sued, there are always limitations. Guests who get injured at an attraction may still be able to sue the operator, even if they signed a waiver.
For example, if a customer with a heart condition ignores warnings about riding a rollercoaster with certain medical conditions, the operator may not be held liable if he has a heart attack because they willingly accepted the risks known and associated with the ride.
However, if a preventable mechanical error or operator oversight causes a rollercoaster to malfunction and derail, the injured guests can sue the amusement park for gross negligence. In this situation, it would be more challenging to prove that the operator wasn’t responsible for the incident, regardless of any liability waivers.
Additionally, different states have their own laws that may impact how much legal protection liability waivers provide. To determine how liability waivers can and can’t protect your entertainment business in specific situations and locations, contact a specialty insurance expert and review waiver and release laws in your state with your corporate counsel.
This article is not intended to offer legal advice on the use of waiver and release documents. As with any legal document, you should work closely with an attorney familiar and experienced with waiver and release law in your state. Additionally, we recommend that you do not use any generalized waiver and release document you may find on a website or that was provided by a ride manufacturer. Waiver and release law is complicated and varies widely from state to state. Only qualified legal professionals should give you the final direction on your companies use of waivers and release documents.
Read more: Water Park Injuries: Risks & Liabilities
McGowan Allied Specialty Insurance specializes in insuring amusement parks and entertainment venues. With over 35 years of risk management expertise in this industry, we help park operators navigate inherent liability risks with sound coverage strategies.
If you’re still wondering, “Do liability waivers work?” contact McGowan Allied Specialty Insurance to learn more.